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Category Archives: Video

Um, Om? WHAT Hindu Heavy Metal Music Scene?

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Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

India isn’t exactly a hotbed of heavy metal.  The airwaves over there are packed with film-style dance numbers derived from Bollywood, bhangra, and various poppy Western influences.  There’s a millennia-long tradition of music in India, but it’s usually been slim pickings for those of us lifelong heavy metal fans.  On the occasions where rock music is even to be found anywhere in India, it’s almost always soft in nature.  To be fair, most Indians have never properly heard heavy metal.  However, I’ve thought for some years now that this could all change- that India is even becoming ripe for a heavy metal revolution!

It’s only appropriate.  India is hardcore, man.  India is a sensation seeker’s dream, with a vibrant and colorful spiritual culture, an exceedingly wide range of flavor profiles and smells, rollicking cities overflowing into breathtaking landscapes, ancient and modern architecture on top of each other, oppressive political ferment, and the crush of people and traffic in every direction.  It’s hotter than hell in most of India most of the time.  India is an assault on your senses.  What can possibly be more METAL than that?

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Meanwhile, Hinduism probably lends itself better to the all-out thrash power of metal than it’s generally credited for.  The sitar, tablas, bhajans, mantras, and shlokas of Hinduism can entrance, hypnotize, and more at their best.  The mythology is filled with colorful characters, moral conundrums, epic battle scenes, powerful weapons, gruesome demons, sexual symbolism, and savage animalistic imagery such as many-armed Goddesses carrying the bleeding heads of vanquished foes as souvenirs, or the lion-headed avatar Narasimha ripping an enemy in half with his bare hands.  Imagine imagining this bloody milieu with raw metal guitar, bass, and drum power behind it.  Again I ask you, what could possibly be more METAL than that?

TDT 16-02-13 © ANOOP B VYAS PHOTOGRAPHY  (3).jpgFinally, we have the demographic bulge.  It’s no secret that metal is a young person’s game. India is a young country, with 845 million people under the age of 35, many of them jumping on the Internet or television for the first time to partake in Western influenced culture, including music.  The best American import is arriving in force.

And thus, an earnest, nascent Hindu/Vedic heavy metal scene has formed in India and abroad.  It took your correspondent a few forays down the Internet rabbit hole to discover it, but it’s definitely there.  There’s a long way to go for Hindu metal to fill more than a nook in the niche cranny.  Particularly missing in my view is enough melodic singing to match the guitar riffs.  The scene is far from mature but more than anything, I see potential and opportunity.  Below are some of the bands you can find along with example tracks for a pretty elaborate curated survey.  No matter what you think of the music, these bands are truly pioneers, merging the great traditions of Hinduism and hard rock.  If there are others I missed, please mention them in the comments below!

The Down Troddence.  These guys flat-out rock.  After I came across this song today, I couldn’t get enough of their music.  Not surprisingly, there’s many a Shiva themed song on our list, with this one simply titled, Shiva.  The Down Troddence is a six-piece that hails from Kerala.  I haven’t heard all of the songs by all of these bands yet but as of now I consider this the most technically competent band among the lot.

 

Motherjane.  A bit less heavy, and a bit more classical influence than the others on this list, Motherjane is an eminently listenable band with a melodic and well-orchestrated sound.  Chasing the Sun as a bonus also features an excellent video which could only be made in India.  They remind me a bit of the excellent Pakistani band Junoon.  I wish I had heard of Motherjane sooner.

 

Moksh the Band Fronted by a woman named Ishrat Rajan on vocals, and managed by lead guitarist/singer Ashish Wilson, this Shimla four-piece has been kicking around its incarnations since 2003.  In recent years the band decided to take on a ditty about Shiva the Destroyer himself with Shiv Tandav Stotram.  In keeping with the spirit of Hinduism, the video is meant to provoke awareness of those who lost their lives in natural disasters.

 

Rudra.  This foursome of bad boy Hindus hails from Singapore, and has been jamming out since 1992.  They are quite likely the first band to have earned the so-called Hindu metal mantle.  There are unmistakable hints of ancient India in the song Now Therefore including a conch call to start the proceedings.  I like more melody in my metal vocals, but this style should appeal to many of you metal heads out there and the instrumentals are solid.         

 

Millennium.  To be honest, Millennium was formed as an 80’s hair metal band with Christian members and no Hindu influence.  The song Only be One in fact uses overt Christian imagery such as crosses and coffins.  That being said, this band formed in Bangalore in 1986.  They are considered to be one of the first, if not the first, successful metal band from India.  Props!  Rock out!

 

Indus Creed.  While Indus Creed straddles the line between pop rock (not exactly my jam) and hard rock, they deserve mention as one of the indisputable giants in India’s rock music history.  Rock ‘N Roll Renegade was one of their early hits from their debut album of the same name in the 80’s, and helped launch them into the pantheon of India’s rock stratosphere.  In fact, Indus Creed helped pave the way for all of the other bands in this list.  Respect.

 

Cult of Fire.  Hinduism is for all, and this Czech Republic band proves that Hindu metal is a globalized phenomenon.  The song Kali Ma is mostly instrumental, but it shows the range of talent possessed by Cult of Fire.  The below video splices a bunch of Hindi Hindu film footage into the song.  Judge for yourself whether Kajol and Sridevi dressed like Goddesses with heavy metal in the background actually works…


Dying Out Flame.
  OK, first of all, this band looks absolutely hardcore.  Right?  They also rock righteously, they’re co-ed, plus they have cool album art (see top).  Formed in 2011, this band hails from the Hindu majority nation of Nepal, adding more to the international flavor of Hindu metal.  Shiva Rudrastakam pays tribute to Lord Shiva- in case you aren’t noticing a trend here?

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Demonic Resurrection.    This particular band was formed by four teenagers at the start of the new millennium.  The Mumbai band has kept on, and helped bring other metal bands into the fold through singer Sahil Makhija’s Deamonstealer Records.  Of particular interest in the song Matsya- The Fish and others is a seamless and welcome integration of sitar into the metal.

 

Dhwesha.  This band’s punishing style puts the death into death metal.  Another Bangalore band, Dhwesha actually sings in Kannada- though it’s nearly impossible to tell.  In their self-titled song from 2014, you can choose to witness the see-saw between uplift and despair.  It’s worth it.

 

This list of course cannot do justice to the entire music library each of these bands has, nor is it meant to be a complete listing of Hindu or Vedic heavy metal.  Hopefully you have been exposed to a world you didn’t know about, and enjoyed it as much as I have.

There’s a musical revolution under way, and you have gotten in on the ground floor.

 

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Picture credits:

  1. Dying Out Flame album art
  2. Demonic Resurrection album art
  3. Down Troddence concert by Anup B Vyas
  4. Dying Out Flame album art
  5. Om guitar pick, Zazzle.com
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Indian-American Comedian Hasan Minhaj Cracks Up the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

It seems that Indian comedians are ascendant these days.

We saw that the first SNL monologue in the Trump Era was performed by Aziz Ansari, who hit a deep home run during a time of great anxiety for many around the world.  His fellow Muslim Indian-American comedian, Hasan Minhaj, was on the mic at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which did not include President Trump, who is a poor sport utterly lacking a sense of humor.  Trump has no self-awareness and doesn’t want to admit it, but his bumbling around the corners of our federal government is pretty easy to make fun of.

For those of us who didn’t know much about the young and talented Minhaj, this is a good introduction.  Minhaj carries the event well, despite some awkward half-hearted applauses.  The writing and delivery are spot on in a pressure packed environment featuring top journalists, politicians, and celebrities.  In this era of American darkness, we need more brown men to step up and poke fun at our leader- and our crumbling media landscape.   They are two cracking pillars of an American society in rapid decline, right before our very eyes.

Sean Spicer Threatens Indian-American: “Such a Great Country that Allows You to be Here.”

This video says a lot.  Watch it.  Whether or not you agree with the line or tone of questioning, it’s quite telling that Sean Spicer opines on whether Indian-Americans are “allowed” in this country in response.

In the words of Sree Chauhan, a US-born education advocate in Washington D.C. who took this video of Spicer at an Apple store:

“I was not polite. But when does being impolite mean that I should be thrown out of the United States of America? The country I was born in, the country I was raised in, the country I love despite its flaws.

I have spent enough time online to encounter rabid Trump supporters. Many of these folks see my brown skin and question my citizenship. They question whether I am here legally. They tell me to leave the country. They have told me to go back to where I came from. To which my snarky reply is often, “Go back where? New York?”

“Such a great country that allows you to be here.”

It’s one thing to have a Twitter egg tell say you do not belong in America, it is quite another to have the Press Secretary of the United States of America do so. I am still astounded. And while I am fearless, I wonder how this administration will use its power to silence ordinary people like me.”

First SNL Monologue of Trump Era is by Indian-American Comedian Aziz Ansari

The first Saturday Night Live episode of the Trump era aired on 1/21/17, and there couldn’t possibly be a better host for this particular episode than a Muslim-American comedian.  Aziz Ansari is both that and also an Indian-American, and he delivered an excellent monologue (above) that all Americans can appreciate.

Not surprisingly, it was Trump-centric, and Aziz nailed it.  “Pretty cool to know that he’s probably sitting at home watching a brown guy make fun of him though,” he said at the beginning.  Aziz also gave a shout-out to the Women’s March, and described a phenomenon all of us are now witnessing, the kkk (“with a small k”) racism that’s crept up in the last few years, emboldened by Trump’s rise.

Piercing through the laugh, Aziz also voices hope.  We applaud Aziz Ansari for a memorable monologue during a historic time.

VIDEO: Why Indians and Pakistanis Should Never Talk to Each Other, All India Bakchod

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

One of the great tragedies of our lifetimes is the continued enmity and hatred between India and Pakistan in modern times, despite their having so much in common.  When I went to Pakistan to see for myself what that country was about, I was so shocked by the truth that it changed my life.  Since then I have been on something of an obsessive messianic mission, despite outright impossible odds, to explain to both Indians and Pakistanis that closer friendship would be exceedingly easy and beneficial to both sides.  Too often the media would rather talk about terrorism or “surgical strikes” instead.  And the subcontinent has never recovered from the violence of 1947 and its aftermath.

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The Editor in Lahore.  He didn’t feel unsafe.  He found the ladies to be very nice.

In the above video, All India Bakchod (AIB) did something novel: a film crew in Pakistan and a film crew in India coordinated and had random people in one country talk on the phone with random people in the other country on independence day, which is the same for both nations.  “We found out why Indians and Pakistanis should never talk to each other,” says AIB.  This video pretty much made me laugh and cry at the same time.

Credits:

India Crew

Producers: AIB, Mansi Multani
Production Assistants: Aakash Mehta, Nikhil Pai, Vaibhav
DOPs: Soham Hundekar, Saiyam Wakchaure
Sound: Harish, Gopal
Line Producer: Vikram
Editor – Shashwata Dutta
Online – Mihir Lele

India Participants

Mazhar
Prabtej
Sharanya
Subramanian
Mitakshi
Aditi
Nidhi
Richa
Akash Zala
Sujit Yadav
Joyanto Mukherjee
Malti Naik

Pakistan Crew

Producer – Khaula Jamil (Humans of Karachi)
DOP – Zeest Shabbir
Sound – Huma Murad Shah

Pakistan Participants

(SZABIST & Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture)

Hasan
Gaity
Salman Noorani
Talha Khan
Amjad
Maaz
Fatima
Minza Sajjad
Anosha
Maha Minhaj
Aqil
Soonhal
Hafeez

VIDEO: Dr. Anuj Shrivastava’s Batshit-Crazy Conspiracy Theories

I saw this video making the rounds on WhatsApp, and the premise of this gentleman Dr. Anuj Srivastava’s little lecture is intriguing: why are Indian media outlets so derogatory?  That they spew lots of hatred is certainly true.  And the video starts out with a calm and intelligent tone that led me to believe this might be an interesting few minutes and I might even learn something.

However, the good doctor’s explanations are absolutely batshit crazy!  To take just one example that really caught my attention, he claims without any evidence that CNN-News18, the CNN India partnership formerly known as CNN-IBN, is funded by the “Southern Baptist Church,” and that is why the channel is anti-Indian, anti-Hindu, liberal, and leftist.  One by one, he claims that all of India’s major news outlets, including NDTV, the Times group, the Hindu, and India Today are all totally compromised by foreign governments or religious groups.  Just a tiny bit of research would show that the Southern Baptist Church has nothing to do with CNN-News18.  Why in God’s name would they want to sponsor that news channel?  Also, this doctor does not practice in the US though the video would have you believe he is based there.  I am not doubting his medical abilities here.

You must watch this video, and not just for a good laugh.  There is no doubting Dr. Srivastava’s sincerity.  There is no better example of the Indian society’s biggest faults on display: a penchant for batshit crazy conspiracy theories, whining, and blaming anyone else except themselves for India’s massive problems 70 years after the British abandoned India.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

VIDEO: Donald Trump Promises that the U.S. & India will be Best Friends

Just before the election in October, Trump said something remarkable.  He promised a large group of Indian-Americans at a Republican Hindu Coalition concert in New Jersey that the United States and India are “going to be best friends.”  He even said “I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India” during this speech and called Narendra Modi a great man, all after lighting a traditional Hindu “diva” lamp.

We shall soon find out if the promise comes true.

You can find the full speech, the diva lighting, and the introduction by RHC chairman Shalabh Kumar, below:

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: One in a Billion, the Satnam Singh Documentary

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via ESPN

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Imagine the extraordinarily low odds for any poor American rural kid to be able to make it to the NBA.  Those odds need to be multiplied many times over for a rural kid- even a gigantic one- from the state of Punjab in India to achieve the same goal.  And yet Satnam Singh Bhamara now stands on the cusp of finding a roster spot in the National Basketball Association.  The 7-foot-2 gentle giant was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and currently plays in the Developmental League.  His epic rise, and the massive challenges he has had to overcome, are well-documented in the documentary film, One in a Billion, available as of this month on Netflix.  By no coincidence, Netflix is making major inroads into India.

One in a Billion does a fantastic job of laying out this story of someone who most basketball fans in the United States have not even heard of yet, a story whose ending is not yet written as Singh is just 21 years old.   The filmmakers gained access to a diverse bunch of people, including Singh’s family members, youth coaches, trainers, and teammates in both India and the United States, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Indian hoops journalist Karan Madhok.

The hero of the story could not possibly be easier to root for, regardless of your interest level in basketball.  Satnam’s relentless focus on improvement and positive energy in the face of obstacles, coupled with his desire to make family and country proud above all else is nothing short of inspiring.  He had to learn not only basketball but also English at a late age, which caused him major academic troubles in America.  The gym where he learned to play the game in India had a leaky roof and pigeons interrupting practices.

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via sportskeeda.com

Satnam also faced inordinate amounts of homesickness and culture shock coming from a remote North Indian village to Florida for high school, leaving all of his friends and family far behind.  In the film even the NBA, which is a giant profit-making machine, shows that it has a bit of heart despite the fact that high-level institutional support for Satnam is very much about tapping the 1.25 billion person India market for money.

There are moments that I really loved.  The Indian farm scenes are poignant and sad, despite the upward trajectory of one of the village’s favorite sons.  At one point Satnam’s black high school teammates at IMG Academy in Florida joked around with Satnam about dancing and impressing girls, and probed him about what India was like.  There are moments where Satnam’s high school coach praises him, and others where he yells at him.  Satnam’s workouts, drills, and game footage are also interspersed into the documentary and show his progression.  Satnam gets fitted for his first suit and then the draft-day hijinks are very intense, and well-shot.  I got chills in the scene where Satnam shook hands with Larry Bird, who runs basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, my favorite team.  Satnam in a Pacers uniform would be My. Dream. Come. True.

“People may look back on that date, and say that was the tipping point for basketball in India,” says Silver about Satnam’s drafting in the film.  I tend to agree.  India is too big to have just one major sport.  It’s possible that at some future date, basketball might one day give cricket a run for its money in India.  Personally, I can’t wait for that day to come, and for Singh, the Bhullar brothers, and others to pave the way for more Indians in pro basketball in the NBA and around the world.

In the meanwhile, this movie is the definitive account of how it all started.  Credit director Roman Gackowski and the whole crew for that.

Interview with Classical Indian Singer & Producer, M. Balachandra Prabhu

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Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Last week, I was able to conduct a Skype interview with M. Balachandra Prabhu, a highly talented Indian classical musician based in Mumbai, and a fellow Konkani.  I saw him perform this summer in Atlanta, and was impressed by the range and depth of his voice, which quite obviously had a mesmerizing effect on the entire crowd.

Like many of you, I am not an expert in Indian classical music and saw this as an opportunity to learn more about it.  But at its best, such as when it comes from Prabhu’s lungs, it can be nearly trance inducing.  Among other topics, we discussed the survival of Indian classical music in the future, its effect on the mind, how Prabhu got his training, his intense practice regimen, who his influences are, and aspects of his personal life.  Please click on the audio file below.

Balachandra Prabhu is staying busy this year, recording Western fusion songs, movie songs, and also learning how to produce and arrange music.  We are expecting great things from this young musician in the future.unnamed-479x240

Thanks to K. Rajesh Pai, a seasoned tabla player who often accompanies Prabhu and other top Indian musicians as they tour the United States, for helping me to arrange this interview and provide background information.  I hope that you enjoy the interview as much as I did.  Below are links to some of his music as well.

Jaby Koay & Priyanka Chopra: YOU Can Help them get Married & Make Babies

unknownMahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Recently I came across some YouTube videos by Jaby Koay, an American dude with a channel focused on movie trailer reaction videos.  What makes this channel special is an impressively wide collection of Bollywood reactions.  Basically, he and his lovable co-hosts watch trailers and react in the types of humorous and perplexed ways you would expect for Americans to react to Bollywood as they dig into India’s bizarre, disturbing, unique, and entertaining film industry: with a combination of WTF? / OMG she’s hot! / why?! / don’t!?!

While some Indians may find this patronizing, I would argue to the contrary.  Jaby’s channel is creating a virtual bridge between American millennials and the wonderful world of Bollywood.  It also gives Indian folks a window into how Americans might view Bollywood.  This is exactly the kind of disarming “soft diplomacy” the two countries need.  Beyond all of that, there is also a cause.  And YOU can join this cause.

Like many Americans, Jaby has been exposed to Bollywood megastar Priyanka Chopra thanks to her work on the American TV series, Quantico.  He also did a reaction video to one of her films Jai Gangaajal, which is a great representation of why these are fun, whether you like Bollywood or not:

Jaby took things a bit further by expressing an (understandable) desire to marry Priyanka and have her babies.  He even created a 5-step plan to make this goal a reality.  The first step: he wants to grab her attention with 1 million subscribers.  You can help!

And just for giggles, watch the hilarious response (and response-response) to the 5 step plan from a YouTube threesome called Obnoxious Indians:

Ah… to be young, in love, and connected in a globalized world.  When I was a kid all we had were pen pals.

 Thanks to Komal Keni for bringing this channel to my attention.

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